The Ghost in the Machine

by Woodbury Mary
ISBN: 1550502271

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The Ghost in the Machine
by M.J. Fishbane

In Mary Woodbury's The Ghost in the Machine, overweight and awkward fifteen-year-old Tyler Graham finds a ghost in his dead uncle's destroyed Volkswagen beetle one summer night. The ghost, who looks like a teenage version of Tyler's Uncle Scott, tells him to fix the car. Suddenly inspired, Tyler, who has no previous mechanical experience, decides to do as the ghost asks. With the help of his new friend, Haley Nixon, Tyler discovers why his mother is so depressed, how his uncle Scott died, and he learns crucial facts about the feud between his family and another.
The book's simple language is offset by the complex storyline of family feuds, betrayal, murder and self-discovery. Indeed, there is so much happening in this book, that some of the minor plot lines get lost. Woodbury is so determined to make her characters believable, that in some ways they become two-dimensional because they appear contrived. Tyler's grandfather, for example, is portrayed as a "tyrant" who is often angry and will call people "eco-pacifist- vegetarian hippies."
In fact, this story of community, growth and togetherness becomes something of an "ABC After School Special." Anytime that Tyler is faced with his grandfather's bigotry or mean-spirited remarks, Woodbury makes sure readers know that Tyler does not feel that way. Tyler likes the "eco-pacifist-vegetarian hippies" because they give the valley a "dash of other-worldliness." And she never forgets to remind us how "chubby" or "flabby" Tyler is so that she can contrast this with his physical transformation at the end of the summer into a taller and more slender young man. So that like his car and the mystery behind his family's secrets, Tyler too gets "repaired.

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